A fully-masked Madison Principal Michael Gasaway presents a diploma to a similarly masked graduating senior Kessler Hancock during Sunday’s delayed graduation at Madison Consolidated High School (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
A fully-masked Madison Principal Michael Gasaway presents a diploma to a similarly masked graduating senior Kessler Hancock during Sunday’s delayed graduation at Madison Consolidated High School (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
Gratitude was the theme of the day for Madison Consolidated High School’s Class of 2020 Sunday as the senior finally got to cross the stage in a delayed graduation ceremony that took months of planning post-COVID-19.

But it was better late than never for the seniors, whose year ended remotely following the initial cancellation of in-person classes March 13 and eventually the entire year per order of Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 2. As the month of May went by without a graduation ceremony,

Coordination with the Jefferson County Health Department eventually made possible an altered graduation event, plus a delayed showing of Madison Theatre’s “Newsies” on the same weekend.

Families attending were required to wear face masks as a precaution, as well as all staff and students, who only removed them to give speeches or accept their diplomas.

Graduating senior Emily Skirvin led off the ceremony with a prayer and a performance of “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus while Jessie Dyer delivered a brief address to her class. MCHS Principal Michael Gasaway then recognized students graduating with academic honors and several graduates going into the armed forces, which brought a standing ovation from the crowd of several hundred in the stands.

To pay respect to those classmates, senior Isaac Boone showcased his All-State saxophone skills with a performance of the National Anthem, ending with a bow and applause from families crowded together in the stands.

Elias Hanson, the chosen speaker for his class, addressed the uniqueness of the situation at hand and praised his classmates for how they handled it.

“No other graduating class has been in our shoes. That is not something many people can say, but here we are as pioneers at the frontier of history. You all are awesome and I’m humbled to be standing before such an exceptional class,” Hanson said. “… This whole experience with the pandemic — it has been crazy, it has been tough, it has been unfortunate, but there are lessons to be learned.

“For instance, because our year ended so abruptly, it has taught us to cherish what we have. We don’t know how much longer we might be able to enjoy it. During the quarantine I never really knew I could actually miss school, but that was definitely what was happening for me. So when everything is back to normal, I encourage you to remember a time when it wasn’t,” he added.

Seniors were given the option of choosing the next speaker, which could be any past or present teacher from any grade level with the decision kept secret until graduation day, Gasaway said. They chose history and government teacher Shannon Barger, who continued the theme of gratitude in his “final lesson” to seniors.

Because the pandemic had put cornerstone events like graduation, prom and spring sports on hold, Barger told graduates it was a stark reminder that nothing is guaranteed.

“So make sure that when you leave here today, you tell your parents that you love them, you go and see your grandma and grandpa, you come back and see us, and you don’t take that time for granted. Because it’s special, it’s not a guarantee. Everyone has that certain time when it’s up,” Barger said.

“You are a very special group for going through the things that you went through, and my heart hurts for you guys not being able to do the things that you would normally be able to do during the spring … but you are here today with all your family and friends not taking it for granted. So when you walk out the doors today as alumni of MCHS, you will be my student forever,” Barger added.

Barger’s speech was followed with a performance by Madison’s band under new director, Layn Pieratt, and a brief address from Superintendent Jeff Studebaker. Studebaker thanked each student and family member for wearing a mask and cooperating in order to make the event possible before handing the roll call off to Jill Deputy, transportation and career and technical education director.

After all students had received their diplomas, graduate Caroline Kirby led the turning of the tassels and briefly reflected on the year.

“This past year was a little different, and the years to come may be as well, but do not be afraid. Because what does not challenge you does not allow you to grow,” Kirby said.

Then in typical fashion, students filed out of the gym and into the lobby to visit with family and classmates.